Family Of Top Biden Officials Find Jobs Across Administration Despite ‘No Nepotism’ Pledge
During his tenure in office, President Trump faced incessant criticism from the media for hiring family members – including his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner – and placing friends in positions of authority within his administration.
But just as President Joe Biden has ripped off many aspects of Trump’s “America First” foreign policy and rhetoric, top officials in his administration have shown little compunction about hiring family members, despite Biden’s promise that nepotism wouldn’t be a feature of his administration.
According to a Washington Post report from Friday, during the first few months of Biden’s presidency, at least five children of his top aides have secured coveted jobs in the new administration. They include two sons and a daughter of a White House counselor, the daughter of a deputy White House chief of staff, and the daughter of Biden’s director of presidential personnel. The pattern continued this week when the Treasury Department announced that it had hired JJ Ricchetti, son of Biden counselor Steve Ricchetti.
A handful of ethics experts told WaPo that it was “disappointing” to see the Biden Administration embrace cronyism, just like most of his predecessors.
“While it may not be as bad as appointing your son or daughter to a top government post as Trump did with Jared and Ivanka, it is still bad,” said Walter Shaub, who served as director of the Office of Government Ethics from 2013-2017. “‘Not as bad as Trump’ cannot be the new standard.”
Other relatives of top Biden aides also have secured high-level administration jobs or nominations, including the wife of White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain and the sister of White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Federal law generally prohibits government officials from directly hiring, or encouraging the hiring, of close relatives, however there is no evidence that any of the Biden administration officials named above have directly intervened in the process, according to WaPo. The White House maintains that everyone in the administration has been well-qualified for their positions.
“The president has instituted the highest ethical standards of anyone to ever hold this office,” deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates said. “And he’s proud to have staffed the most diverse administration in American history with well-qualified public servants who reflect his values.”
But the hiring of senior aides’ children remains alarming to ethics experts, because it suggests that people with ties to high-ranking public servants might be getting an advantage over similarly qualified people.
“In a country that had just come through a pandemic, how can these children of political appointees be the only people who are qualified for employment?” Shaub said.
Elsewhere in the federal bureaucracy, some of the “more experienced” relatives of top officials hold other higher-level jobs.
Steve Ricchetti’s son Daniel Ricchetti is a senior adviser in the office of the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. He previously worked for seven years on the staff of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, most recently as a policy analyst.
Cathy Russell, the director of presidential personnel in the White House, has a daughter, Sarah Donilon, who graduated college in 2019 and works in the White House National Security Council. Sarah Donilon’s uncle, Mike Donilon, is a senior adviser to Biden in the White House. Russell’s office does not oversee hiring at the White House or NSC, according to a White House official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
The official said those hired were well-qualified applicants and cited examples of how their experience levels were commensurate with some of their predecessors.
Sarah Donilon, for example, worked as a McCain Institute Fellow with Kurt Campbell, the National Security Council coordinator for the Indo Pacific, with whom she now works in the White House, the White House official said. The official also said the Biden administration places a priority on hiring former campaign volunteers and that J.J. Ricchetti is a former volunteer. Julia Reed earned praise from Biden aides for her work on the advance staff of his presidential campaign.
Biden signed an executive order on his first day in office implementing ethics rules that went further than the Obama administration’s policies. But nothing in the regulations bars the administration from hiring people who are related to White House officials. As WaPo adds, for Biden, family has been central to his decades-long political ascent. His sister, Valerie Biden Owens, has been perhaps his most influential aide, managing his campaigns for local, state and national office over the years. Additionally, the tragic deaths of his wife and infant daughter in a 1972 car crash, and his son Beau, who succumbed to brain cancer in 2015, have become core pieces of his political identity.
But just because Hunter Biden doesn’t have an office in the West Wing doesn’t mean Biden didn’t mislead the public about the role family members of senior officials would play in his administration.
Fri, 06/18/2021 – 18:00